Suzanne Bonamici’s role in the conspiracy of silence to protect David Wu

by Dan Lucas

Suzanne Bonamici’s role in the conspiracy of silence to protect David Wu
A three-part series for the special election to replace disgraced Democratic Congressman David Wu

Part 1 – The troubled history of David Wu (link)
Part 2 – Oregon Democrats’ conspiracy of silence culture that protected Wu (link)
Part 3 – Suzanne Bonamici’s role in the conspiracy of silence to protect Wu

Click here for a PDF of the entire 3-part series

Part 3 – Suzanne Bonamici’s role in the conspiracy of silence to protect Wu

Part 2 of this series began “Oregon has a history of powerful politicians who are sexual predators, and a culture that enables and protects these sexual predators with a conspiracy of silence.” David Wu was very much one of those powerful politicians who was a sexual predator, and millionaire “local power couple” Suzanne Bonamici and her lawyer husband were very much a part of the “culture that enables and protects these sexual predators with a conspiracy of silence”.

In defending David Wu in 2004, Suzanne Bonamici’s lawyer husband used thug tactics (“ferociously counter-attacked”, “aggressively attack”, “went over the top”) to try to silence the Oregonian and an 83-year-old woman who was dying of cancer – a woman who as assistant dean had counseled the college girl David Wu had tried to rape – the college girl David Wu had tried to silence during the attempted rape by putting a pillow over her face.

The paper and the dying former counselor didn’t give in to Bonamici’s husband’s threats of lawsuits and the Oregonian ran the story. The day the story ran, Wu issued a statement admitting “As a 21-year old, I hurt someone I cared very much about. I take full responsibility for my actions and I am sorry.”, and he went on to admit “I was disciplined by Stanford University for my behavior”.

Just days before Wu admitted the incident, “[Bonamici’s husband] disputed the claims and credibility of The Oregonian’s sources, in particular [83-year-old] Leah Kaplan, the former Stanford assistant dean who counseled the woman in 1976. [Bonamici’s husband] said his own investigators interviewed Kaplan and that the newspaper’s information was ‘false.'”

Former Oregonian managing editor Stephen Engelberg says that after running the story in 2004, they learned that the college girl may not have been Wu’s only victim: “Over the next few months, we heard other stories from other women. None was willing to go on the record. It appeared to us that Wu’s aggressive conduct with women may have continued deep into his adulthood.”

Bonamici’s husband went on to serve as Wu’s lawyer for seven more years – resigning in 2011 just prior to his being confirmed as a federal judge and shortly before Bonamici announced she would run to replace Wu. And working at his law firm, doing work like protecting a powerful Congressman and sexual predator like Wu, paid very well: Bonamici’s husband made over $750,000 in 2010. He reported a net worth of nearly $4.3 million in 2011.

Having that kind of money allowed Bonamici to put $200,000 of personal money into her primary campaign to replace David Wu.

Suzanne’s a champion for women – unless they’re sexual assault victims

Emily’s List says that Suzanne Bonamici is “A champion for women.” The National Organization for Women (NOW) lets supporters know that Suzanne’s candidacy is “especially important for women’s rights supporters”,  and the Feminist Majority PAC says Suzanne is a “strong supporter of women’s rights.”

Unless that woman or girl also happens to be the victim of sexual assault. Then, Suzanne doesn’t show “strong support” and she’s not much of a “champion”. In those cases, for those victims, Suzanne is silent. And silence is consent. Suzanne’s opponents in the primary, Brad Avakian and Brad Witt, weren’t silent. Why was Suzanne Bonamici?

When confronted with her husband’s efforts to cover up David Wu’s attempted rape, Suzanne likes to say “I’m running for office, not my husband.” Okay, but Suzanne, you can’t have it both ways. If your husband isn’t the one running, then you weren’t the one representing David Wu – and you should have spoken up for those sexual assault victims. Why didn’t you?

Knowing the background of David Wu’s attempted rape in college, why didn’t you speak out when the news of his sexual assault on an 18-year-old came out last July? Why didn’t you call for his resignation, like fellow Democrats Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley did? There is no excuse. Why were you silent?

Your strange silence even had some of the staunchest Democrats scratching their heads. On the extremely pro-Democratic BlueOregon blog, Kari Chisholm, BlueOregon co-founder, couldn’t understand: “Personally, I’m still astonished that Bonamici never called on Wu to resign after the most recent allegations; and refused to run against him until he resigned.”

Despite Wu’s escalating problems, Bonamici remained a friend, ardent supporter and donor

For someone who is asking to take on a bigger leadership role, to represent Oregon in Congress, Bonamici certainly didn’t show any leadership whatsoever in speaking out about David Wu’s ongoing and escalating problems. Instead, she showed more of her ‘go along to get along’ approach to dealing with Oregon’s Democratic Party.

The same ‘go along to get along’ approach that she demonstrated in the State Senate, where she voted along party lines 98.3% of the time. It’s very possible that Suzanne isn’t aware of how much of a follower she is. In a debate last November, when asked to give three specific examples of where she differed from her party, Suzanne said she differed with her party on: business legislation, consumer protection, and free trade agreements. Even the left-leaning PolitiFact had to rate that one FALSE. As the 98.3% illustrates, Suzanne is a follower, not a leader, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that she never spoke out on David Wu’s escalating problems. No surprise that she just kept doing the same thing she’d always done; long past when everyone else saw the problems with David Wu.

Friends With Wu? It’s Complicated…

Friendships with Suzanne Bonamici are, as they say, complicated. David Wu was a “close personal friend”, a “friend” and a “family friend”, but not a “close friend”.  Or, the “close personal friend” and a “friend” are a lie; the “family friend” is validated by an email, and then somehow Wu was still not a “close friend”. As I said, it’s complicated.

Sandy Webb, an attorney, was the Democratic candidate for state representative in House District 26 in 2010. She was endorsed by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, OEA, SEIU, AFSCME, Basic Rights Oregon, Dave Hunt and Brad Avakian. Last October, she wrote on the BlueOregon blog, “When I ran for office in 2010, Suzanne Bonamici worked against my campaign because my husband [David Robinson] was challenging Wu in the primary. She was representing a PAC meant to help elect women candidates and told me one of the criteria for support was getting my husband to bow out of the race because Wu was her close personal friend and in her opinion [Wu] shouldn’t be challenged in the primary by another D[emocrat]. She certainly held me responsible for helping out her friend. I am pretty sure Carla [Axtman] knows of many more instances where Bonamici let her friendship rule her decision making – and to me that does make her an ardent supporter.”

The Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes reported that “The Bonamici campaign was quick to label Webb’s charge as a lie.”

Robinson, Webb’s husband, forwarded Jeff Mapes a 2009 email from Bonamici after Robinson had written asking for a meeting with her to talk about his own candidacy. Bonamici said it would be “awkward” to meet with him because “[Wu] is a family friend and (as any Google search will reveal) he has been a client of my husband’s.”

Given all that’s transpired, it’s understandable that Suzanne is ambiguous about her friendship / un-friendship with David Wu. If only life had an “Unfriend” button like Facebook…

Bonamici’s Ardent Support For Wu

In Part 2 of this series, there were a number of references pulled from media accounts of Democratic insiders knowing about David Wu’s problems for years. A frank discussion that took place on BlueOregon last October gives some additional insider perspective.

Carla Axtman interviewed the 3 most competitive Democrats (Bonamici, Avakian, Witt) vying for the First Congressional District special election primary. After publishing those interviews in BlueOregon, she wrote a piece titled “OR-1: Thoughts on the Democratic primary”. She was up front about being a Brad Avakian supporter, and she wrote that she hadn’t voted for David Wu since 2004; she’d been leaving that portion of her ballot blank. [Presumably, this was in response to the 2004 revelations that David Wu had attempted to rape his ex-girlfriend in college.]

Carla went on to express her concern “about the lack of scrutiny of this race by the Oregon media. Especially in regard to Bonamici’s connections to David Wu’s previous campaigns–and ardent support for him, well after much of the rest of Washington County was articulating strong doubts about Wu’s behavior and ability to represent the District. Bonamici’s family had a livelihood for a number of years that was, to some degree or another, connected to Wu’s issues. While I have my doubts that there was any nefarious or untoward activity–I’m alarmed that this story hasn’t been fully vetted.”

Her concern was during the primary, but it is an equal concern now as the general election draws to a close. I am continually surprised by how many voters there are who don’t even know that Suzanne Bonamici’s husband was David Wu’s lawyer. It’s not that it’s some sinister secret, but it is something voters should know before they vote and it illustrates that there’s still a great deal of room for improvement in Oregon regarding effectively informing voters.

Her additional concern was that “it leaves [Suzanne Bonamici] vulnerable in the General Election for the Republicans to take the story and run–spinning it in whatever direction suits them best.” A reasonable concern, given her perspective, and clearly there’s a better chance of the story being told more objectively by the media than by a partisan political campaign. All the more reason for Oregon’s media to be telling the stories that need to be told – even the difficult ones.

October 2010 Campaign Contribution

Suzanne Bonamici gave a campaign contribution of $250 to David Wu on 10/25/2010.

Please go to Part 1 of this series and see what was happening in October 2010. Now, there are really two possibilities of what happened with Suzanne Bonamici’s October campaign contribution to David Wu:

  1. She knew some or all of what was going on and still decided to support Wu in a way she knew would be public.
  2. She didn’t have any idea of what was going on and gave Wu the contribution.

Either possibility is not good – and really, possibility #2 is worse! Do we want someone that clueless representing us in Congress? If she was that close to Wu and didn’t know any of this was going on – how on earth is she going see what’s going on in the shark tank of Washington DC? And if it was possibility #1, what was she thinking?


Voters in Oregon’s first congressional district have a choice to make.

Oregon has a history of powerful politicians who are sexual predators, and a culture that enables and protects these sexual predators with a conspiracy of silence.

The choice is between someone who has very much been a part of that culture; an enabler, or someone new. A chance to start breaking up that culture. A chance to set Oregon on a new path.


Information on the Special Election

As a result of David Wu’s resignation, there is a special election to replace him in the U.S. Congress for the last 11 months of his term: February 2012 through early January 2013. This special general election will be held on January 31, 2012, and ballots will be mailed starting tomorrow, January 13. The special election is being held using the existing first congressional district (CD-1) boundaries.

The winner of this special election at the end of this month will serve only a few months before they have to hit the campaign trail again to run in the May 2012 primary and then in the November 2012 general election. The May 2012 primary and November 2012 general elections will use the new CD-1 boundaries from last year’s redistricting.